Fitness and Faith—The Connection Between Body, Mind, and Spirit

Fitness and Faith—The Connection Between Body, Mind, and Spirit

McCall Bulloch

fitness and faith. the mind, body, and spirit are connected

As a multi-sport athlete throughout elementary and high school, exercise was a daily habit for me and was ingrained in my lifestyle. However, at college, without the encouragement from coaches, teammates, and the competition—let’s be honest, I am that person that loves to win—I lost all motivation to workout. Unless we’re counting the multiple uphill trips I had to make each day between my apartment and campus, fitness had almost completely dwindled from my life.

At first I didn’t notice a change. I was exhausted, anxious, and lacked interest in my faith, but I just attributed it to what my grandpa calls “the bird leaving the nest syndrome” as I tried to find that golden balance between studying, having fun, and figuring out who I was. About a year in, right before finals, mainly out of procrastination of all the things I had to get done, I went for a run. While I ran, I could clearly prioritize what needed to get done and I finished my run feeling energized and excited to start. I realized then that in losing my motivation I had also lost the connection between my body and mind that fitness gives me.

Studies show that exercise can play a huge part on our mental health by increasing blood flow to the brain. It raises our confidence and gives us a sense of well-being, leading to more happiness. Who doesn’t like to feel and look better, am I right? Working out also has major effects on the brain which can improve our memory and develop neuron pathways for better problem-solving. Released endorphins increase our mood and energy levels and can even fight off feelings of depression and repair damaged brain cells!

A routine again, fitness has also increased my faith. I show gratitude to God for my health, for this body by taking care of it. As the body overcomes physical restraints, the mind too overcomes mental obstacles. Working out allows me to enter a sort of spiritual ecstasy where I often receive answers to prayers and am better able to see myself through God’s eyes. My break from fitness also taught me that we exercise faith the same way we would exercise our bodies; with practice and devotion. When I am faced with challenges, doubt, or problems I try to remind myself that I can do hard things, that I am strong. Like my body learning to push harder or go further, I can learn to overcome by trusting God and living worthily.

These connections between the body, mind, and spirit are important and there is no doubt that we’re definitely connected. But are we connected in the right ways? We hear of news from across the world within minutes and encyclopedias of information are at our fingertips. We’re all guilty of a single ding or notification taking us down a deep, deep rabbit’s hole and it’s easy to be swept up in a current of emails, photos, and cute puppy videos. Fitness can be a way to unplug from the world. I find great joy in outdoor sports like hiking, cycling, skiing or rock climbing. Not only do they let me appreciate the beauty and blessings of this Earth, but they allow me to recharge and connect in a different way.

Perhaps you’ve already found what grounds you, that’s great! If not, try fitness. It can be in a gym, on a treadmill, outside, or within the walls of your own home. Whatever it is you enjoy, start small and be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to stretch your muscles and faith and gradually you will see the wires that connect your body and mind to God.

McCall Bulloch is a chronic Googler who is known to over emote when telling stories. She is afraid of birds and once cried when a flock of seagulls flew over her. She likes to ski, travel, and eat ice cream.

15 Olympians Share Their Secrets For Olympic Success

15 Olympians Share Their Secrets For Olympic Success

The Olympic Games are always fascinating and inspiring times to watch some of the world’s most elite athletes compete. The years of preparation it takes to make it to the Olympics and the intense pressure during those final moments of competition are not for the faint of heart. Here is what 15 Olympians shared about their secrets for success:

Michael Phelps: Swimming

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in men’s 4x200m freestyle relay, men’s 200m butterfly, men’s 4x100m medley relay, men’s 4x100m freestyle relay, men’s 200m individual relay. Silver medalist in men’s 100m butterfly.

When Michael Phelps found himself in a dark place and he questioned whether life was worth living, his Christian friend and former NFL linebacker, Ray Lewis, stepped up and encouraged Phelps to get his life back on track. He sent Phelps a book, Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. Of the book, Phelps said, “It’s turned me into believing there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet … It helped me when I was in a place where I needed the most help.” Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with 23 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals.

Simone Biles: Gymnastics

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist for individual all-around, vault, floor and team competition. Bronze medalist for beam.

Biles has been called the best female gymnast that ever lived. Back in 2013, Simone Biles posted this insight on Twitter about what drives her to become better:

Ibtihaj Muhammad: Fencing

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Bronze medalist in women’s team sabre. Muhammad made history by being the first American athlete to compete in the Olympics while wearing a Muslim hijab.

“My religion. My faith. They are part of who I am,” Muhammad said in a video released by Mini USA. “When I realized that there had never been a Muslim woman who wore the hijab to represent Team USA, I wanted it, you know, not just for myself but for my community.” Watch the full video here:

Brianna Rollins: Track and Field

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 100m hurdles

“I just kept God first and just continued to let Him guide me throughout the rounds,” Rollins said in an interview with NBC. Her Twitter profile says, “I want to break world records and win gold medals, but I also want to be known as the athlete who glorified God by reaching my full potential.”

Kerri Walsh Jennings: Beach Volleyball

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Bronze medalist with April Ross.

On Instagram, Walsh Jennings revealed some of the words that empower her before competition:

Maya DiRado: Swimming

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 200m backstroke and women’s 4x200m freestyle relay. Silver medalist in women’s 400m individual medley. Bronze medalist in women’s 200m individual medley.

“Knowing that I’m a child of God and that his love for me is determined by nothing I can achieve or do on my own has given me a quiet confidence,” said DiRado in an interview with Christianity Today. “My faith has helped me chart my own course and pursue my goals when people around me may be going in different directions. Jesus’ love for me and all humanity is something that always helps me better love people around me when things get difficult.”

Simone Manuel: Swimming

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 100m freestyle and women’s 4x100m medley relay. Silver medalist in women’s 50m freestyle and women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.

“All glory to God. Isn’t he awesome!” Manuel shared this message via Twitter:

Nate Ebner: Rugby

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Ebner made history for being the only Super Bowl champion who has played rugby in the Olympics.

“[My dad] taught me the importance of being Jewish with holidays like Chanukah and Passover, and I spent some time at Sunday Hebrew school,” said Ebner. “My dad stressed finishing strong in every task I did, and conduct myself always in a proper manner.”

Gabby Douglas: Gymnastics

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in the women’s team competition.

“I take my Bible with me, sometimes two of them, when I travel…. I always pray at every competition, when the judge’s hand goes up I am praying, and there are little Scriptures I like to quote. That keeps me motivated when I am about to go out on the competition floor,” said Douglas in an interview with Christianity Today. “I would say little short prayers, quoting Scriptures: I can do all things through Christ, don’t fear, be courageous. Little things like that get me motivated.”

Steele Johnson: Synchronized Diving

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Silver medalist with David Boudia in men’s synchronized 10m platform.

In an interview with NBC Sports, Johnson said, “It’s cool because this is exciting, this is fun, but this is not what my identity will be for the rest of my life. Yeah, I’m Steele Johnson the Olympian, but at the same time I’m here to love and serve Christ. My identity is rooted in Christ, not in the flips we’re doing.”

Reid Priddy: Men’s Volleyball

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Priddy and the USA men’s volleyball team play Italy in the semifinals on Friday, August 19.

“Volleyball has been a major way God communicates life lessons to me,” said Priddy in an interview with Athletes in Action. “They go hand-in-hand; what I’m learning on the volleyball court I am able to apply in life and vice versa.”

Corey Cogdell: Shooting

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Bronze medalist in women’s trap.

Cogdell expressed her Christian beliefs on Instagram:

Feeling empowered this morning by this, ready to go conquer the world!

A photo posted by Corey Cogdell Unrein (@coreycogdell) on

Katie Ledecky: Swimming

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 200m freestyle, women’s 800m freestyle, women’s 400m freestyle, women’s 4x200m freestyle relay. Silver medalist in women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.

Ledecky told the Catholic Standard that her faith helps her keep things in perspective. “I do say a prayer – or two – before any race. The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me,” she said.

Bubba Watson: Golf

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Although Watson did not medal in Rio, he participated in a historic competition as golf made its debut after 104 years of absence from the Olympics.

In an interview with BillyGraham.org, Watson credited regular Bible study with helping him stay centered. He said he looks forward to “Getting more in the Word and realizing that golf is just an avenue for Jesus to use me to reach as many people as I can.”

Missy Franklin: Swimming

RIO 2016 RESULTS: Gold medalist in women’s 4x200m freestyle relay.

Following a disappointing Olympics in Rio, Franklin Tweeted about the optimism and perspective her faith brings:

Watch this video to learn more about why faith matters to Missy Franklin:

Exercise and Faith – A Lifetime Commitment

Exercise and Faith – A Lifetime Commitment

faith-exercise

Photo Credit: Ashley Barker/Offset.com

I love to exercise every day, whether it’s a walk outside or practicing yoga in a studio. In the process of making exercise a daily decision, I remembered the story of a lady who attended a class on “Commitment.” She sat in the front row with bon-bons in each hand. The instructor asked what she was committed to and she responded, “I am committed to losing weight.” The instructor looked directly at her and replied, “No, you’re not. You’re committed to the emotional comfort that food brings you.” I was struck by the candid response from the instructor and realized there was no lack of commitment, but rather a lack of direction – for her commitment.

I asked myself where my commitment was directed. I had to have faith in myself to get up and get out, because I simply cannot reap the rewards of someone else’s work out. I live in Utah, where extremes in temperature include cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers. The landscape is truly unique with deep and sharp canyons, majestic mountains, high and low valleys, red rock, and delicate wildflowers.

I can always plan on the winter season visiting, and this past November was no exception. However, it was the first time I tried walking outside in winter weather. It has been breathtaking, and sometimes takes my breath away, because it’s so cold. There have been plenty of days when I could have stayed inside and found every excuse not to exercise, but I had to decide where I wanted to direct my commitment – “Daily exercise” or “Every reason not to exercise.” Directing my commitment to “Daily exercise” helped me embrace winter as a truly beautiful season. I never thought I would enjoy walking in winter weather, but I am awed by the gentle snow flurries, and the calculated movements of deer as they glide gracefully across a mountain side or when they walk right in front of me.

If I would have directed my commitment to “Every reason not to exercise,” I would have missed some of the most powerful nights; nights when the earth is crusted with ice and snow, and the clouds in the sky part, revealing perfect stars in perfect constellations and I have to stop, look up, and acknowledge a power greater than myself.

This acknowledgement requires pondering the direction of my commitment to faith, either, “Faith in a power greater than myself” or “Every reason to doubt.” Directing my commitment to “Faith in a power greater than myself,” has been rewarded every day, and every time I am outside – whether it’s a walk through a path of tulips in the spring, a stargazing night in the dead of winter, a hike on a mountain trail during the heat of summer, or a stroll through a canyon to behold the palette of colorful and vibrant leaves – I can look up at the sky and know a great and loving power, bigger than me, is watching over each of us, every day.